A book of inspired opinion certain to provoke spirited political debate and proactive discussions.

WE OWN THE FUTURE

DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM―AMERICAN STYLE

A collection of unique perspectives on democratic socialism.

Aronoff (co-author: A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal, 2019), Dreier (Politics/Occidental Coll.; The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, 2012, etc.) and Kazin (History/Georgetown Univ.; War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918, 2017, etc.) deliver a chorus of intellectual voices who describe their vision for democratic socialism systems in the U.S. as well as assessments of inevitable roadblocks. The editors’ introductory essays offer a crash course in the history of the socialist movement, particularly its incremental resurgence from the federal programs of the 1930s through the social activist movements of the 21st century. As they warn, the mechanics of socialism in other countries offer lessons but not necessarily blueprints. They also address how the “hidden rules of race and racism” must first be overcome before any kind of economic justice can be realized. Each piece is thoughtful and regimented and includes a usable plan of action. Economist Darrick Hamilton hypothesizes a three-part playbook of policies to remediate our unjust financial system while historian Thomas Sugrue proposes a restructuring of the housing and transit markets to create more livable urban and rural spaces. Naomi Klein discusses how enacting the Green New Deal would prioritize and confront the issue of climate change head-on. Social justice advocate Dorothy Roberts addresses the comprehensive impact of universal health care, and journalist Michelle Chen examines the advantages of open borders. The contributors also survey education, sports, election systems, reproductive justice, and the arts. Sensible and convincing, the book takes on the country’s current “troubled plutocracy” and proposes ways “to build a kinder, more humane, and altogether freer society.” Even for those not inclined to agree with its core objective, the book challenges and motivates readers to act and appeal for “daunting but not impossible” changes.

A book of inspired opinion certain to provoke spirited political debate and proactive discussions.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62-097521-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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